Old and new collide as we move into the new millennium with our study of would-be superheroes. Another new Nickelodeon franchise flexes its super muscles, while several of the immortal classic characters of the past continue to appear in new and interesting revivals that keep the spark of their past glory days alive for a new generation.
A note for those concerned with chronology. I’m going to defer reference until next week to a direct-to-video project involving Garfield that falls into this article’s subject matter, to treat it together with similar CGI revivals created several years later as a single discussion. (It’s not very good, so the wait shouldn’t be painful – you’re not missing much.)
Super Goof (Disney, House of Mouse, 2/2/02)- Several decades after Gold Key comics unveiled the alter ego of Goofy, as a super-goober powered hero in red flannel underwear, his secret life finally blossomed into animated form for an excellent one-time appearance. Goofy is the head-waiter at Mickey’s posh night club for all the Disney toons. He timidly musters up the courage to ask for a date with gossip columnist Clarabelle Cow. Clarabelle says she’ll have to check her schedule and get back to him. Goofy takes this as a polite “No”, and is dejected. In the alley behind the club, he chews on a bowl full of peanuts, cracking each with the words, “She loves me not. She loves me not.” A small meteorite falls from the sky, striking Goofy’s peanuts and giving them a radiating green glow. Goofy swallows another one, and goes through a painful-looking transformation accompanied by his “Ya-hoo-hooey” yell. He becomes the caped and long-johned Super Goof. A narrator appears from nowhere (a necessity for all super heroes), and runs him through a Superman-style introduction, as a “strange dogman thing with superpeanut powers”. Goof demonstrates x-ray vision (looking through Monstro the whale to see Pinocchio and Gepetto), super speed (carrying 101 Dalmatians away from the speeding car of Cruella De Ville), and super strength (lifting Willie the Giant). He flies into the club, as Mickey, Daisy, and Minnie utter the rest of the standard opening. “Look. Up at that guy.” “It’s absurd.” “It’s Inane.” It’s Super Goof.
Despite no mask and the standard Goofy hat, not a soul recognizes him. He places his peanuts for safekeeping under his hat – except for one stray that bounces loose, which Goofy stuffs inside his shirt. Super Goof is booked to perform his amazing feats on stage, including juggling the “Pyramid of Pachyderms” from Dumbo. The crowd is mad about him (including the Mad Hatter and March Hare). Only Peter Pan scoffs at him. “So he can fly, he can fly, he can fly. Who cares?” Backstage, Clarabelle informs Super Goof that word on the street is that he’s way more popular than that plain old Goofy. And Goof begins to notice that no one pays attention to him when he’s being himself (as when Donald accidentally snaps a picture of him, until Daisy realizes it’s not Super Goof but Goofy, and tells Donald “Stop wasting film”). Goofy decides he’s fed up with being Super Goof, and now farther than ever from genuinely winning Clarabelle’s affections – and dumps his hat of “goobers” into the trash can. His decision to abandon a super-life comes a little too soon, as a larger comet, almost the size of the club itself, also hurtles through space on a collision course. An alert comes in, and Ludwig Von Drake projects the comet’s trajectory on a computer. With a pencil, he charts a winding dotted line through the club, and draws an “X” for the point of impact – right on Clarabelle’s posterior. Donald throws a switch that opens the club roof, through which emerge a searchlight and loudspeaker system, which project a silhouette of Goofy’s head as a bat-signal, accompanied by the repeating broadcast sound of Goofy’s “Hyulk”.
Goofy realizes he has to put his personal feelings aside, and come to the rescue. He races into the alley, only to find the trash can being picked up by a garbage truck. As soon as the peanuts are dumped into the truck, its headlights light up with the shape of a peanut in each one, and in a flash, the truck is wearing a superhero cape, and launches into the sky. “That was silly”, says Goof. At last, he remembers the lone remaining peanut inside his shirt. The transformation occurs again, and as Clarabelle cringes inside the club, the comet crashes through the roof – only to be held back inches above Clarabelle’s fanny by Super Goof. With Herculean strength, Super Goof flies the comet back outside, then looks around for a way to dispose of it. Simple (what other kind of thought would you expect of Goof?). He precariously balances the huge sphere on top of the trash can in the alley, and places the can’s lid on top. Super Goof returns inside the club, as Clarabelle spreads the news about being saved. Deciding to at least capitalize on his alter-ego image, Super Goof asks if he can have a date with Clarabelle. Clarabelle turns him down, stating she checked her schedule, and has already penciled in a date with Goofy! A happy Goof exits to revert back to his old self once and for all. Meanwhile, Clarabelle finds on stage the peanut shell – and deduces in an instant the true identity of Super Goof – Dumbo! Goofy, in his waiter attire, peers out of the kitchen, declaring, “I may be Goofy, but even I’m not that stupid.”
Another Nickelodeon series which found substantial inspiration from the comics, was The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius. The first such episode to have the characters interact with the super world was Ultra-Sheen (2/11/03). Jimmy’s new invention, the Neutronic Game Pyramid, really puts you in the game – literally. Insert your favorite video game disc, stand on a platform, and your particles are deconstructed to insert you as a player into the game itself. Jimmy invites his friends Carl and Sheen over for a tryout of the prototype. Sheen is there in a heartbeat, as he carries around his “Ultra-Lord” disc with him at all times. One catch with the prototype – you have to win to exit – so for safety sake, Jimmy starts Sheen off on level 1. Sheen is so distracted in meeting Ultra Lord, he allows a villainous robot to sneak up on the both of them for an instant crushing defeat. Jimmy realizes Sheen might be trapped forever if he can die so easily on level 1, so pushes reset and deconstructs himself into the game as well. Along comes Carl, arriving late due to indecision at what game to bring over – he’s finally chosen a fuzzy animal game, “Llamapalooza”. But seeing the Ultra Lord game already in progress on screen, Carl sits down and grabs a set of controls, finding himself controlling the evil robot. He also notes the game level set at 1, and thinking that’s a level for babies, cranks the game up to level 7. The robot develops super breath destructive powers, which Sheen knows aren’t supposed to exist before level 5. Jimmy realizes the only one who could have reset the game is Carl, and they shout toward the screen that it’s not a game and they’re really in trouble. Carl reacts, “The characters know my name. Talk about interactive.” But he continues to play rough, toasting Ultra-Lord to a crisp.
Sheen suggests the only way to power-up is to find a mega power crystal. Jimmy searches for one, finding same where every computer programmer puts them – under the stalagmites. He tosses it to Sheen, but it bounces off of Sheen’s head, into the claw of the robot. The robot grows ten times in size, with an increase in powers to match. He is about to breathe on Sheen, when a strange sound is heard. Carl has grown tired of a game without any llamas, and inserted his own disc in Jimmy’s invention, while standing on the platform. A stampede of llamas invades the interplanetary terrain, with Carl riding bareback atop one of the lead llamas. The distraction causes the robot to drop Sheen, who lands behind Carl astride the wooly steed. Jimmy locates a second power crystal after averting a rattlesnake, and tosses it again to Sheen, who finally makes the catch. Sheen becomes “Ultra-Sheen”, as tall as the robot, and equipped with his own battle rays. The robot breathes a death ray at Sheen, and Sheen counters with a ray from his hand. The two beams are evenly matched, and reach a stalemate in the middle. But Sheen knows everythinj Ultra-Lord, and remembering a European director’s cut of episode 317, knows the robot’s one weakness – lactose intolerance. Grabbing one of Carl’s llamas in his giant hand, Sheen squeezes the animal to produce a flow of milk out its udders. The robot’s allergic reaction shorts him out until he explodes. The game is won, and Jimmy and Sheen return to the real world. But where is Carl? Still astride the llama stampede. Jimmy and Sheen decide to just let him enjoy himself for awhile, and break for lunch, as Carl rides off into the alien sunset.
The Mighty Wheezers (6/7/04) – While Jimmy’s Mom and Dad take a desert trip for a little quality time, Jimmy is left for a weekend sleepover at the family of his fat asthmatic friend Carl Wheezer. Bad health runs in the family, and Carl’s mother and father are worse than Carl is. The family go through complete body disinfects and anti-bacterial sprays on the slightest excuse. They are allergic to nearly every food substance known to man, and eat hearty helping of plant-based protein substitute, that sticks in a solid lump in the bowl. Jimmy can’t even add salt without putting the family into a sneezing fit. And they all have congested bronchial tracts when tsleeping, so they snore like crazy. By 5:00 a.m., Jimmy can’t stand it any longer, and sneaks back to his lab, to concoct a pill to rid the Wheezers of all their ailments – at least on a short-term basis. Shooting a pill apiece into the sleeping Wheezers’ mouths with a blow gun, Jimmy waits for the effects the next morning. Carl awakens, and sees only a blur through his glasses – yet sees perfectly when he takes them off. He feeks so energetic, he dies cartwheels. His Mom vacuums the house by lifting heavy furniture ith one hand. And his father flips Carl and Mom on his feet like a circus acrobat. The Wheezers head to a restaurant, and pig out on all the taboo foods they’ve never been able to touch. Jimmy begins to suspect the pills are working too well, when Carl climbs the wall of a building, and starts leaping from rooftop to rooftop like Batman without a grappling hook.
Jimmy and Sheen try to follow in Jimmy’s saucer, but playful Pop and Mom Wheezer juggle each of them on one finger, and toss them aside into a dumpster. Pop Wheezer announces a new idea – that the whole family climb Mount Incredibly-Unstable. Carl recalls that no one has ever done that and lived – then adds, “Count me in.” The three of them race at super speed for the mountain, and begin scaling in leaps and bounds, without any equipment. Jimmy fears for the worst, as his pills have limited duration. The Wheezers reach the mountain’s peak – a huge balancing rock -and leap around in celebration – then suddenly, Carl develops a nose-bleed, Mom feels the effects of sun exposure, and Pop suffers from aggravated pink-eye. To make matters more perilous, the rocky peak gives way, and the family are tipped off the mountain for what apppears a surely-fatal fall. Jimmy is barely able to guide them to the ground safely with the force of a tractor beam from his saucer. But the boulder has started an avalanche, and not only are the Wheezers in its path, but Jimmy’s parents on their desert trip, all caught in the shadow of the oncoming boulders. Jimmy reverses the polarity on his tractor beam to repel the rocks, but is unable to generate enough power for the effect. A Jimmy “brain blast” provides the solution. The desert surface is a salt flat – and Jimmy remembers the incident at the dinner table. Projecting the repulsion beam on the desert floor, he kicks up all the salt he can muster. The Wheezers go into the predicted sneezing fit – and their added wind is enough to stop the rocks and save the day. The Wheezers had one super-power in their arsenal all the time.
The N-Men (11/27/04) – Jimmy, Carl, Sheen, Cindy and Libby are returning in Jimmy’s spaceship from an interplanetary joyride for a round of miniature golf on Mercury. They must first avigate through the Van Patten radiation belt (a twist on the Van Allen belt, presumably referencing comedian Dick Van Patten from “Eight is Enough”). Each of the group becomes involved in an activity during the return trip. Sheen is totally hooked on a vibrator chair in the ship, pretending he’s firing “retro rockets into his lower back”. Libby is trying to cover a zit with vanishing cream. Carl has a bad case of indigestion. Jimmy drinks an orange juice which Carl can’t handle, but also gets into an argument with Cindy, who keeps boasting how she murdered him with her skillful golfing on the back nine. Jimmy and Cindy square off in a bout of arm wrestling and verbal jibes, with no one paying attention that the ship is being pulled into the radiation belt. The ship receives a massive zap, then crash lands back on Earth. Injuries are minor (Carl complains about his head and his trick knee – “My scapula, though, seems surprisingly fine”). But everyone discovers they have developed a mutated power, seemingly determined by what they were doing when they entered the belt. Cindy, from her arm-wrestling, has developed super strength. Sheen is now a vibrating version of the Flash, with super-vibration and super speed. Libby’s vanishing cream efforts have resulted in invisibility powers at will. Carl now possesses a massively-strong super burp. And Jimmy – has just turned orange from the orange juice! The kids decide to use their powers to become a superhero squad, and attempt to round up commonplace “crime” in Retroville, but become more hindrance than help. Sheen uses super-speed to whirl the air into a vortex to pick up the droppings of a litterbug – but unleashes a small tornado on the town. Libby appears from nowhere in the street to stop a jaywalker, but causes a vehicular pileup as well. Carl’s super-burp leaves a path of destruction instead of reforming local “Candy Bar” proprietor Sam into recycling his trash. And Cindy’s super-strength topples a giant sombrero from a taco stand. Sam calls the authorities, and an army general arrives with helicopter and a containment device to suck up the mutants and take them away to a secret military confinement center in the desert. Jimmy, who has acted as self-appointed leader of the squad (despite his partners’ refusal to take orders or to attempt to control their powers) insists that if the general takes his friends, he must also take Jimmy. Detecting nothing super about Jimmy except his orange skin and fruity aroma, the general and Sam just laugh, and leave Jimmy alone and friendless in Retroville.
Back in his lab, Jimmy works through the night to find an antidote to the powers, but still hasn’t his on a missing ingredient to crack the DNA code. A re-scan of DNA information produces a readout indicating that the super powers are draining the subjects’ life energy rapidly, so that use of the powers may deplete their existence within a matter of hours. In his haste to work faster, Jimmy spills a soda can on his computer keyboard, shorting out his work. Losing hope of finding a cure in time, Jimmy shoves the keyboard aside violently, shouting, “Why do I even care? All they did was mock me. Especially Cindy.” The madder he gets, the more Jimmy feels strange, and his eye color changes from blue to green. His voice deepens, and we observe from his shadow on the wall that he is beginning to grow. Jimmy emerges as a full-blown, orange-colored parody of – The Hulk! The stage is set for a battle royal, as Cindy and the others observe through the dome of their prison military units heading for Retroville. Taking Jimmy’s advice, each of the other mutants has finally started to train and learn how to harness their powers, as well as finding new abilities. Cindy has developed into a veritable equal to Superman, with long-distance vision, and power of flight. Libby finds she can not only generate force fields, but use them to make others wholly or partially invisible. And Carl’s burp is now so strong, he is able to shatter the imprisoning dome so they can make their escape. Jimmy is on a rampage, tossing tanks around like toys, and the T-men locate the general and cut a deal, pointing out they are the only force on Earth capable of facing off against Jimmy’s strength. A special-effects laden battle highlights the episode, the T-men using various combinations of their powers to temporarily set Jimmy back. Carl is relied upon as an ultimate weapon of strength – but hasn’t eaten anything spicy lately, so when he trues to burp unsuccessfully, admits, “I got nothing.” Sheen determines to fix this, and speeds into town to the Candy Bar, hijacking one of Sam’s bottles of super-strength seltzer. Returning in a “flash” to the team, Sheen sprays most of the bottle down Carl’s throat, then gives Carl a violent shaking with his super-vibration powers. Carl is primed and ready, and lets out his most devastating burp-blast. Jimmy falls – and though he is briefly able to revive, is paused long enough to hear Cindy do something she never expected to have to do – apologize to Jimmy, and even go so far as to almost utter the words that she l-l-loves him. Jimmy’s rage falls – and Jimmy is returned to normal. However, the team’s powers and life energy are nearly depleted. In a convenient writer’s plot hole, Jimmy somehow deduces that Sam’s Super Seltzer might be the missing ingredient to absorb the radiation from the team – and before we know it, everyone is on the road to recovery, at the price of the loss of their superpowers. They make a farewell appearance to the town in their super-suits, apologizing and announcing they will be ready to resume normal life in a matter of days. But Carl still has one burp left, which bowls members of the audience over, causing Sheen to quietly zip away with the words, “Thank you for your time”, and Carl to ask if anyone has a soothing tummy lozenge.
The N-Men made a brief return in The League of Villains (6/10/05), where, conveniently, Jimmy reveals that he somehow took DNA samples of himself and all his friends before changing them back from superhero mutants, and synthesized the DNA’s properties into powders for use in a super-emergency, which should restore their powers for half an hour. The emergency arises, in a complicated extended-length plot reuniting all the villains Jimmy ever thwarted as a united force to seal Jimmy’s doom. Jimmy and Sheen are abducted by a Yolkian ship, and kept in a holding cell while the villains decide a means for their demise. Sheen fraternizes with the enemy, befriending a friendless reptilian alien who is left to guard their cell. Jimmy talks the alien into letting them borrow his computer tablet so they can write their respective last wills. Instead, Jimmy transmits a distress call to Carl’s computer screen. Carl is told to retrieve the N-Men powders from Jimmy’s lab, and round up the team for a flight in Jimmy’s rocket to the Yolkian ship’s coordinates. Carl obtains the powders, with two problems: while he color-codes the tubes to keep track of whose powers are whose, he forgets the code. Also, he leaves behind Jimmy’s tube entirely, grabbing instead a super love potion. On the planet where the alien ship has docked, the team members are forced to grab powder vials at random. Jimmy realizes before downing his that it’s really the love potion, while Sheen is now Super Girl. Carl goes invisible. Cindy has the super vibrating speed, and Libby the super burps. They all take awhile to adjust to their power switches, but Jimmy provides a diversion, blowing love potion at two villains to render them madly in love, rather than concentrating on their mission of destruction. Tthe N-team escape in the rocket, and the action shifts to Retroville, which s also facing a crisis – Jimmy’s Mom and Dad, looking in Jimmy’s lab for something in which to follow the alien ship, have activated a wormhole generator, throwing the entire town into the mesozoic age and the populace running from all varieties of dinosaurs. The N-Team learn to work together again to foil the dinosaurs with various feats of invisibility, force fields, and super strength, while Jimmy constructs from spare parts a wormhole reversal device which Cindy launches into the vortex to bring the town back to the present – but leaving the pursuing villains stranded in the past. A lot to pack in in one show – which was intended as the series finale, but inexplicably aired mid-season.
El Magnifico (11/25/06) marks Jimmy’s final voyage into the world of superheroes – way out of production sequence. Sheen’s father, Mr. Estevez, is growing sad at his son’s obsession with Ultea-Lord, feeling left oit of any hero-worship for himself, in the same manner as George Jetson and Baby Huey’s father in previous episodes. His own career as an air-conditioning repairman offers nothing to grab his son’s attention. Out of the blue, Estecez tries a desperate move, surprising everyone by claiming that he is secretly a superhero, “El Magnifico”, producing a novelty photo of himself posing in a supersuit. No one believes him, and to avoid embarrassing his son in front of his friends, Estevez makes a rash promise to demonstrate his powers at noon the next day. But Estevez has a plan, knowing of Jimmy’s inventiveness. He intercepts the boy genius in his lab, begging him to invent a super suit so that his son will look up to him. Jimmy, despite ethical concerns whether this is a proper use of science, relents to provide the equipment, and the two work on a battery of super gadgets through the night. They also recruit Carl to help the next morning, to set up perils for Estevez to foil. Flying jets, lasers, and various other gadgetry play a part in the mock demonstration, in which Estevez “saves” Sheen and Carl from various perils at the zoo. But Jimmy notes that an unscheduled flight by Estevez with the boys in hand is draining the super suit’s power too soon. Estevez takes a quick side trip to rescue a duck from the jaws of an alligator, but runs out of power upon landing, leaving himself, Carl and Sheen facing the alligator. Jimmy tries to find a zookeeper, but the gator already has Estevez and the kids cornered against a wall. Estevez sees a panel on the pit wall, containing thermostatic controls. With a little quick rewiring, he reprograms the settings so that the cooling system for the pit drops the temperature to below freezing. The cold-blooded alligator can’t take the sudden cold snap, and collapses into a sleep. Sheen is awestruck that his dead saved them using normal powers, and like Elroy Jetson, admits, “Ultra-Lord may be a super hero – but you’re a super dad.”
Green Loontern (Warner, Duck Dodgers, 10/18/03) – Geotge Jetson isn’t the only one who can get in trouble merely by picking up his laundry. Daffy Duck (as Duck Dodgers In the 24 1/2th Century) receives from the dry cleaners, instead of one of his traditional green suits, the outfit of Hal Jordan of the Green Lantern Corps. Not just the outfit, mind you, but in a convenient mishap suiting the writers’ needs, Hal just happens to have left his Green Lantern ring in one of the pockets. Dodgers tries on the ring as something potentially pawnable, and suddenly glows with power. The suit now fits him like a glove, and he marvels (oops, wrong franchise) at how it shows off his physique. He discovers he can float – and then fly. As he soars into the sky and hovers in mid air, Dodgers states he is proud to be the first of his kind endowed with such aerial powers, and promises not to abuse them – much – while a flock of wild ducks passes in flight behind him unnoticed, to emphasize Dodgers’ stupidity that he’s never done this before.
Dodgers tries his hand at a few “constructs” with the ring, creating a glowing “hand” of light to give space cadet Porky a wedgie, and a giant catcher’s mitt to rescue a falling dog which Dodgers imperiled in the first place. Then, the ring starts to flash of its own volition, and Dodgers is drawn by a summoning ray into outer space. Lantern training officer Kilowog has summoned all the Lanterns in the universe, who are being attacked by robots of Sinestro, and transported by projected portals to an unknown destination. “Are they gonna need to run a new membership drive”, comments Dodgers. Sinestro leaves Kilowog and a handful of Lanterns behind, as emissaries to spread the legend of how he defeated the Lantern Corps, and departs with his robots. Kilowog and the others suspect Dodgers of having been sent by Sinestro, but ultimately conclude he is too stupid for even Sinestro to have used as a pawn. One lantern locates a microbe on a broken robot, identifying its origin planet as the possible location of Sinestro’s lair. Working together, the remaining Lanterns restore the robot to flying condition, with one new twist – placing their most expendable member (Dodgers) inside for a Trojan horse to gain entry and lower Sinestro’s shields to allow the remaining Corps members to also enter. Dodgers indeed manages to obtain entrance as a straggler survivor of the robot battle, then slips into the command center by creating a construct of a salesman’s foot in the door so that he can enter. Inside, Dodgers uses the robot to make “a few simple adjustments” to the security system – pounding on the control panel with the metal robot fists until it is warped. He is captured and brought before Sinestro, who wonders if he came alone because he is the bravest or the most stupid. Dodgers says that question has come up before – check back for the answer next week. Sinestro shows what has become of the other Lanterns – all of whom are suspended in a chamber of liquid, with wires draining off their power to an antimatter ray machine that will destroy the very fabric of the cosmos. Sinestro offers Dodgers a chance to join forces with him rather than perish – and Dodgers to his srprise jumps at the chance to get in on the “ground floor of a new order”, depriving Sinestro of his chance to engage in a long-winded “seduction speech”.
Dodgers, however, plays the deal for all it’s worth, adding additional conditions, such as getting a pony, box seats at every sporting event, anf a baby brother. When he discovers, however, that the sapping of power from the Lanterns will ultimately destroy them, Dodgers reverts to heroic form, and confronts Sinestro. Sinestro forms a construct of his own, telling Dodgers that he “pressed” his luck, placing Dodgers into the squeeze of a giant press. As Dodgers struggles to hold back the press mechanism, he creates a construct with his own ring of a giant alarm clock, placing it against the glass of the containment chamber holding the Lanterns to revive them from a hibernated state. Kilowog and the remaining Lanterns arrive (Dodgers’ “adjustments” having actually succeeded in disabling the security force field), and Kilowog breaks the containment chamber open with a giant mallet. The impact of the Lanterns’ release also disables the antimatter ray, and the vortex it had formed begins to close. The Lanterns all focus their powers on Sinestro at once, forcing him backwards into his own vortex, as it closes upon him, leaving him in another dimension. Dodgers escapes the press by being squeezed out of his latex suit, through the lubrication of his own perspiration. As he stands in feathery nudity, he is offered a change of clothes – by the timely arrival of Hal Jordan, wearing his Dodgers suit. (Now how did Hal fly there, with no ring?) Hal retrieves his now neatly pressed suit, and Dodgers gets back his original uniform. Dodgers is proclaimed a hero by the Corps – then Hal leads to Corps in flight skyward, on to new adventures. This leaves Dodgers alone – and stranded – without a ride home. And even eager young Space Cadet Porky won’t be around to help – as he’s still hanging by his shorts from a building, from the super-wedgie Dodgers gave him earlier.
Take it from someone who’s tried in his spare time – Tom and Jerry are a tough act to write for. Pantomime comedy without dialogue assist is hard enough – but when you have a duo like these guys, who’ve been almost everywhere, done almost everything, and performed about every kind of violent or shape-shifting gag that can be performed, its hard to find anything new for them to do that feels clever and original – and more likely you’ll be left with the feeling we’ve somehow been there before. Such often seemed the fate of Tom and Jerry Tales – a series that could be brilliant when it was brillliant, but boring when it was boring. Heaven knows it tried hard – bringing visual production values to a new high for television product. But it set itself too high a bar to achieve, due to a formatting issue. Settling on the classic 3 shorts per half hour format, it failed to grant itself the liberty of choosing subjects at random – and decided that all three shorts in the program needed to be frameworked on a single theme. While Tiny Toons, with a large ensemble cast, could regularly pull off such feats, having only one series to fill all three slots generally meant that there would be one strong title in each half hour, while the follow-ups either seemed like second-string product or just plain filler. The odds of coming up with three clever ideas in one sitting just seemed unreachable for these characters.
Consider for your perusal the half-hour devoted to super-powers, aired 9/22/07. Opening the program was the best and strongest contender, More Power To You. Tom is cat guard of a domed structure which is the headquarters for a squad of superheroes. Of course, while the heroes are away, the mice will play. Jerry, in bathing cap, tries to take advantage of Tom’s cat-nap to take a bath in Tom’s water dish. Tom catches him and, pulling Jerry’s bathing cap down over him, converts Jerry into ball form, then produces a ping-pong paddle to bounce Jerry around. The superheroes’ ship enters through the domed roof. Five heroes emerge – the “Amazing Acquaintances” – with a variety of powers – fire, ice, elasticity, super strength and growth. Complaining about the villain having slipped right through their fingers, they proceed to a wall, where five platforms are set to hold the power rings that give each of them their super abilities. Each removes their ring, then reminds Tom that he’s in charge of their security. Tom pushes against an electronic paw reader that activates a high voltage force field in front of the ring platforms, then returns to paddling Jerry. But one swat goes awry, and Jerry is launched into a small gap between the electrical force fields and the rings. Jerry emerges with one of the rings caught around his waist (a lifted idea, already exploited throughout the feature-length feature, Tom and Jerry and the Magic Ring). While all this is going on, a skylight is pried open above (What, no burglar alarms in such a security building?), and Spike, aka “Doom Dog”, enters, seeking the power rings for himself.
Jerry finds the ring he’s wearing belongs to the team’s super-strong member – when Tom tries to pound Jerry with his fist, and instead winds up with a painful Jerry-shaped indentation in the side of his hand. Tom runs to the ring shield and shuts off the electrical beams long enough to take pot luck and grab a ring for himself. He restarts the beams just as Spike steps from the shadows and makes a lunge for the rings, taking a painful zap while Tom isn’t looking. Tom meanwhile finds he’s wearing the elastic-power ring, and stretches randomly, trying to control his abilities. A whistle alerts Tom that Jerry is trying to get his attention – and holding up the heroes’ plane with one hand. Tom fears the worst, and tries to run out of the way – but his elastic body merely stretches back and forth, always leaving something in the line of fire. Jerry tosses the plane, scoring a direct hit not only on Tom, but on skulking Spike as well. The vibration of the impact causes the remaining rings on the platforms to roll out onto the floor. Tom stretches his arms and snags Jerry, and the strength ring falls off Jerry’s waist and rolls out of reach down a grating. But Jerry catches one of the new rings before Tom can reel him in, and while Tom clutches Jerry in his hands, his paws ignite in flames. Jerry has become the equivalent of the Human Torch from the Fanrastic Four. After cooling off his sizzled paws, Tom grabs a second ring to counter Jerry’s new ability, becoming Ice-Thomas. He sends a cold blast from his paw at Jerry above, freezing him into an iceberg. Inside the ice, Jerry turns on the heat, and melts a tunnel out, also causing the iceberg to crack. Most of it falls on Tom – who himself cracks into a pile of ice cubes. Tom manages to pull himself together, and blasts away at Jerry, just missing the mouse with his ice beams time and again, but accidentally purring the freeze on Spike. Jerry finds he can beam his powers, too, and shoots a small comet into Tom’s rear end. The two face off – heat beam vs. ice beam – and pour everything they’ve got into it. Both start to grimace and quaver, realizing their powers are being taxed to the limit, as the two beams cancel each other out in the middle.
Finally, each has to stop and rest, while the last of their beams disappear in a spiral in the center. Spike chooses this moment to thaw and break his ice encasement, and discloses his presence at last, threatening that nothing will stop him from obtaining the rings. Tom runs in a panic, and still being part elastic, runs straight into the landing gear of the plane, stretching to tie himself in a knot around it. Jerry holds his ground, and tries a heat blast – but Doom Dog’s cape and armor are able to withstand the shot. “Thanks. It was getting a little chilly in here”, says Spike. Jerry realizes Tom’s assist will be needed to score a victory, and signals Tom with a plan. Tom unwinds himself, then he and Jerry repeat their earlier confrontation, with their fire and ice beams meeting head-to-head. “If youse two can’t stop fighting between yourselves, how are ya’ gonna stop me?” asks Spike. Our heroes provide the answer – by joining in a rocking motion that hurls the ball of power-beam from between them, straight at Spike. Spike is well and truly bowled over, and collapses with his suit in tatters on the floor. The superhero squad reenters headquarters, amazed to find Doom Dog captured, and inquire among themselves who could have done it. Jerry tries to step forward, but Tom pushes Jerry out of the way to steal the credit. Jerry, however, notices the unused fifth ring on the floor, and pulls it around his waist. As Tom pantomimes about his bravery, Jerry is seen approaching from behind, growing bigger – and bigger – and bigger – until he crushes Tom under one giant foot. “Well, I guess you had some help”, says a team member to Tom, as Tom’s trembling paw points out from under Jerry’s foot to give the mouse the credit he deserves.
Catch Me Though You Can’t is, as might be predicted, a step downhill from the excellent opening episode. Tom is a lab assistant to a scientist, working on a ray gun to control speed and metabolism. In a too-convenient writing lapse, Jerry turns up almost in plain sight, sleeping on the seat cushion of the chair for the professor’s ray gun. The chase begins, with Jerry repeating a setup dating back to Puss Gets the Boot – holding a bottle of green radioactive fluid over a table edge with threat to drop it. Tom seizes the bottle from Jerry and cautiously replaces it on the table. The professor meanwhile has aimed his ray gun at a turtle, and waits for the machinery to warm up for its blast, while setting the ray’s controls to the setting “fast”. A fleeing Jerry runs right into the beam of the gun, taking the shot himself. Jerry’s legs suddenly become the same sort of blur characteristic of the Road Runner. “That mouse is now a part of my experiment. Get him”, shouts the professor. Tom chases Jerry round and round a lab table, but Jerry is so fast he does laps around the cat. Tom pauses to catch his breath, and raches up to one of the tables for a quenching drink – not noticing it’s the same radioactive solution we saw earlier. Tom belches after the drink – and blasts a hole in the opposite wall, plus has a tooth fall out of his mouth into the now empty bottle.
Tom pursues Jerry – on foot and in vehicles, with no luck. One clever gag has Tom start to get an idea while observing a sporty looking car. Just as a light bulb goes on above his head in a thought cloud, Jerry zips into the cloud, and steals the bulb away. Tom tries to think of the idea again, but shrugs his shoulders, now having nothing. Later in the film, he comes up with a second idea – and jealously grabs and clings to the light bulb himself, to ensure this one won’t get away. Jerry meanwhile succeeds in acquiring a few friends (Spike, and the duck family) by rescuing them from side effects of Tom’s failed efforts to catch him. Tom finally removes the professor’s gun-mount chair from the lab, and ties it to a large balloon. While Jerry demonstrates his speed in a bit of baseball with Spoke and the ducks, Tom flies overhead, sets the ray gun to “Normal”, and removes Jerry’s power. But Tom never gets to celebrate victory, as he flies too close to pointed flagpoles on a tall building, which puncture the baloon. As the air bag careens out of control, the ropes holding the heavy gun-chair strain and break. Tom clutches to the ropes, while the chair falls with a thud into the grass of the park below. “Ooh, an ultra-zapper. I always wanted one of them”, says Spike, seating himself in the chair. The film ends with Spike taking aternating pot-shots at the baloon, switching it from fast to slow, leaving Tom with the prospect of a bumpy ride for the remainder of the day.
Perhaps the most bizarre of the three episides is Power Tom. It starts out typical of the genre – with Tom apparently a Superman/Batman cross patrolling the night as he flies through the skies. He finds cause for a rescue – a mailman is up a tree, avoiding being chomped by Spike below. Tom lands behind Spoke, and zaps his rear-end with heat vision. In the best gag of the episode, Tom squashes Spike into a ball, then dribbles him while whistling a sound-alike theme to “Sweet Georgia Brown” from the Harlem Globetrotters, tossing Spike for two points into the net of a dog catcher. Tom flies over an adoring crowd who fills the air with ticker tape. Naturally, it’s all a dream of a snoozing Tom on the sofa. Enter Miss “Two Shoes” (the modern-day counterpart to Mammy Two Shoes, turned white, but still heftily obese and with a Southern accent). She as usual criticizes Tom for lying around all day instead of catching the mouse, then exits, saying she has some “shopping to do”. Jerry takes advantage of Tom’s siesta by fixing himself a pan of jiffy-pop popcorn and turning on the TV remote. Tom awakens from the TV noises, and pushes the remote’s ‘off” button. Jerry pushes it back on with a hop. The two alternate between off and on, until Jerry times his hop differently, landing instead on the handle of the popcorn pan, and tilling Tom’s eyes and ears with the hot buttered stuff. Tom chases Jerry outside into the yard, where several large pottery figures clutter the garden. Jerry leans on the antennae of a snail statue, and it pivots like a lever – opening a secret entrance in the lawn. Jerry leans in to explore, and Tom falls in trying to pounce on him. Tom ricochets off the tunnel walls, finally sliding down an ersatz “batpole”.
Jerry follows, to find Tom emerged at the other end of the pole into a feminine-oriented batcave. Machinery has automatically dressed Tom on the way down – into an oversized dress and boots for a girl superhero. Tom shrieks when he sees his getup in a vanity mirror, while Jerry bursts out laughing – and even locates a tube of lipstick to apply a finishing touch to Tom’s face. We begin to deduce that miss “Two Shoes” does considerably more than shop on her outings. (One can only imagine what this film might have been like if produced in the 40’s with the real Mammy Two Shoes in the cast – a superhero domestic?) Tom finds a whip equivalent of Wonder Woman’s lariat, which comes to electrical life and chases Tom – until he stomps it to death like a snake. A bat-computer calls to “Power-Girl” with report of a bank robbery in progress in Cucamonga, in the “Quimby” district (a nice in-joke to the infamous, no sense-of-humor Fred Quimby, producer during most of the original series). From here on, the script falters in finding absolutely nothing for Jerry to do but tag along, as the coordinates for the robbery location are transmitted into a GPS device in the belt of Tom’s super-suit. A hatchway opens in the cave roof, and the suit’s boots develop rocket jets to blast Tom into the skies. At the bank, three cats (paralleling Butch and his gang from such films as Saturday Evening Puss) note the profitability of being a “cat burglar”. Tom touches down before them, and is greeted with an instant round of laughter at his attire. Tom races at them in anger, but they sidestep him, allowing him to crash face first into a wall, knocking out all his teeth. The smallest cat kisses Tom’s hand, then whirls him around by a pull of his belt, spinning Tom like a top into the chute of a mailbox. However, the brief delay caused by his arrival has permitted time for the real Power-Girl (Two Shoes) to arrive, and she makes short work of the gang, swinging them by the tails into a dumpster, to await arrest by the police.
Two Shoes reaches into the mailbox to retrieve her spare supersuit, without seeing the identity of its wearer. (Oh, come on – who else but Tom would have been prowling around in your garden?) As she leaves, Tom and Jerry slip away and head back home. They beat Two Shoes back, and lay exhausted on the sofa, as Two Shoes comes in and hears a TV news report of the “mysterious heroic cat and mouse duo who assisted Power Girl”, then vanished without a trace. Two Shoes observes to Tom. “Still on the sofa, huh? Why don’t you ever do something heroic like that?” Jerry winks at us for an iris out.
NEXT WEEK: We’ll wrap this subject up with a super-bow. There’s still a few more super-surprises left to share.